“Your level of achievement, happiness, and satisfaction is directly correlated to your ability to emotionally connect with and move other people!”—Celebrity Vocal Coach Roger Love
At a recent Technology Marketing Toolkit Quarterly Producers Club meeting, Robin Robins, founder and CEO, opened her training with one trending question: “Do you hear Yanny or Laurel?” She proceeded by playing the recording from Twitter. A poll of the room revealed that the attendees were divided: Several heard Yanny, while the others heard Laurel (which happens to be the original word!).
I could only hear Laurel. I was completely baffled when several colleagues at my table said they only heard Yanny. Why? Reading several articles searching for explanations, like this one on NPR, reveals one key factor: perception. Turns out, the recording we heard was not the original recording. It was pulled through various speakers, which resulted in a distorted recording that was higher in frequency than the suggested original.
So, what does this have to do with perception? Everything! Our brains listen to sounds, and based on our individual childhood history, social interactions, culture, and more, we place “value judgments” on what we hear. Our subconscious creates what we think we should hear in our minds. As Robins explained, “We filter things through our own paradigm.” If this is the case, then it is crucial that we articulate our words clearly.
In 2017, Michael W. Kraus of the Yale University School of Management published the study “Voice-Only Communication Enhances Empathic Accuracy,” which found that participants who were exposed to “voice-only” communication (no body language or facial expressions) were more often more accurate in identifying empathy in speakers’ voices than those exposed to outside distractions. It also revealed that it’s not necessarily the words/content that is impactful, but rather “how” you say those words.
The most important component in the buying process is emotion. Our clients rely on us to explain very complicated IT issues in a noncomplicated way. Too often, we use descriptions that are over their head and inaudible to the ear. A client or prospect who is confused about your message could evoke the emotions of frustration and mistrust. These emotions are not conducive to making a sale!
Perception is reality! So how can we make sure that each word we utter to our clients, prospects, or employees is understood with zero misperception? Consider these five voice strategies:
- Watch your pace. Speak too fast? You may be perceived as being annoyed or in danger. Speak too slowly and you risk boring your audience and putting them to sleep. Be aware of your pace and find a steady happy medium between the two.
- Melody over monotone every time! Remember the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? “Bueller? Bueller? … Anyone, Anyone?” I yawn just thinking about it! That is a great example of what you don’t want to sound like when making a sales pitch or delivering a seminar. Too many IT professionals speak in an even, unexcited tone. Show clients and prospects your passion for IT and your excitement about working with them by adding emphasis to words or a bit of melody to conversation. I am not saying to sing like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, but rather take some of that melody and add it to your words. Make them interesting, dynamic, and contagious! Make your audience tune in to hear what you will say next.
- Turn up or down the volume. When others cannot hear what you are saying, they will take one of three possible actions: 1) Ask you to repeat your words; 2) Just try to piece together what they think they heard, usually incorrectly, or; 3) Just tune you out. Conversely, speak too loudly and watch others slowly move away from you or ask why you are upset with them. You may not be, but their perception is reality. Instead, speak in a tone that is clear and confident and just right for the proximity of your audience. Large groups require a higher volume. In smaller staff meetings or one-to-one sales meetings turn your volume down to a level to be easily heard with clarity. If you are not sure, it does not hurt to ask, “Can everyone hear me?”
- Prepare your voice before you speak. Just like any athlete must stretch and warm up before an endeavor, so too should a speaker warm up his/her voice. Drink lots of water to hydrate your vocal cords and throat. Do breathing exercises to prepare your lungs. Inhale through your nose, letting the air expand your belly. Then exhale slowly through your mouth while bringing in your belly at the same pace. Repeat four to six times. Breathing through your nose will keep your throat hydrated longer. Breathing through the mouth brings in air that dries up your throat. A fun way to warm up your vocal cords is to sing your favorite song before you present.
- Know your audience. The most important way to truly emotionally connect with your audience is to take the time to get to know who you are presenting to, otherwise called Audience Analysis. Tailor your words and tone to match that of your audience. Delivering a cybersecurity seminar to a room full of attorneys? Speak to them with a clear, confident tone, with enough volume to carry through the room. Words are important here too. Show your audience you really understand their industry by using words and phrases such as “managing partner,” “your firm” (vs. business), “access files from court,” etc. This attention to detail reveals that you are an expert in cybersecurity AND their industry. Tip: We always need to find ways to set ourselves apart—use this technique with every meeting or presentation you have!
The next time you present to a prospect, client, employee, or even a vendor, prepare your voice, tone, and the words you are going to say. You don’t want a debate on whether you said, “Please sign” or “Please decline!”
Yanny? Laurel? What do you hear?